MAKE no mistake. The next general election is between Najib Razak and his maker Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In what is the most direct statement yet, the prime minister finally named Dr Mahathir and accused him of forcing his successor to resign and would stop at nothing to install his son Mukhriz as the next prime minister.
Dr Mahathir may or may not reprise his role as prime minister. He may not even contest in the next general election. But following the recent attacks between Najib and the 91-year-old, voters will be forced to ideologically pick between the two.
It will be a battle between one former prime minister whose administration had lost billions on overambitious ideas and an incumbent government that has lost billions due to financial mismanagement.
In return, Dr Mahathir’s tenure also gave Malaysia the keys to its own national car, the programmes to turn an agrarian economy into an industrial one, Putrajaya, Kuala Lumpur International Airport, privatised Malaysia Airlines, and made Petronas a top 500 company in the world.
He also gave Malaysia the tallest twin towers in the world, the North-South Highway, the Penang Bridge, successful entrepreneurs such as Syed Mokhtar Al Bukhary, Ananda Krishnan, Vincent Tan the late Syed Nasimuddin Amin and kept a tight lid on race and religious tensions.
On the foreign front, Dr Mahathir’s rule saw Malaysia rise up in international stature as he stood up against the British with the “Buy British Last” in 1981, continued Malaysia’s non-aligned stance and stood up against the West by criticising their own track records.
In contrast, the Najib government expanded public transportation lines in Klang Valley, liberated certain service sectors, put in a National Transformation Programme that successfully reduced government’s fiscal deficit, diversified government income and reduced the dependence from Petronas dividends and lifted the B40 group by giving them cash so that they could slip out of the hardcore poor zone.
But the price of that is a consumption tax that almost extended to rice vermicelli and more indirect taxes such as the tourism tax.
Najib’s government also oversaw the second jailing of Anwar, constitutional issues in the Perak takeover, replacing ISA and Emergency Orders with stricter laws such as Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, Prevention of Terrorism Act and the National Security Council Act, the Felda Global Ventures saga, heightened race and religious tensions, and most of all the 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) scandal.
In foreign policy, the Najib administration forged cosier ties with the US, China and the Middle East, the end of Malaysia’s non-aligned stance and the expansion of development parcels given to foreign entities.
While during the Mahathir days, Malaysia was known as an Asian economic tiger, today the country is marred by news of prosecution cases across three continents over the 1MDB issue.
The US Department of Justice has bluntly said that some US4.5 billion had been siphoned from 1MDB into officials’ pockets.
While there are various legal actions across the world, nothing has happened in Malaysia. Other than a Bank Negara Malaysia fine for 1MDB, there has been no action against the company’s previous CEOs, the board of directors or advisory board chairman.
At the height of the 1MDB issue too, an attorney-general and two top anti-graft officers retired before their tenure was up while Parliament, Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, Attorney-General, Auditor-General and BNM investigations were closed without further action and put into the Official Secrets Act.
Make no mistake.
The next general election is not about how Pakatan Harapan forges ahead despite its weaknesses. It is also not about the deafening silence within BN over the 1MDB issue.
And it’s certainly not about how PAS can stay relevant without its main allies – PKR and DAP.
It’s a battle between the creator and his creation. It’s a fight between their deeds and misdeeds. It’s a choice between the past and the present BN, with very little actually separating their time in power.